Setting up a website for the first time requires that you make a lot of complex decisions regarding web design, development, content, and marketing. But, before all of that, you will have to choose your web hosting company, which can be difficult if you aren't sure what you're looking for or even what you need.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the process of storing your website and its files on a computer or server. This server can be located anywhere so long as it is connected to the web, and it allows users to access your website from anywhere. The main purpose of a server is to store data so that users can access it over the web.
So, when you host your website through a web hosting company, what you're really doing is storing the HTML files on a computer somewhere that is acting as a server.
What Do You Need from a Server?
Now that you know what web hosting is, you can learn about the information that really affects your choice.
• Speed – Web hosting speed affects the speed of your website. If your host is too slow, your website will take too longer to load, and you will likely lose traffic. Website speed is usually defined as how quickly and how many times per second the host makes connections with the Internet. The faster these connections happen, the more quickly your site will load.
• Compatibility – Your server should be fully compatible with or ideally optimized for the content management system (CMS) that you choose to use for your site.
• Storage – Storage is the amount of data that you can store on your server. In some cases, you will need very little data. For example, a four-page business website is very small. However, you may decide to upload videos, pictures, and other media, which require significantly more storage.
• Bandwidth – Bandwidth is the amount of data that you can cumulatively upload and download. This means that everything you upload and everything you or a visitor accesses on the web page. Bandwidth can go quickly, simply because you use it every time someone visits your website. The higher your bandwidth, the more visitors your site can support. However, it may be important to discuss this with an expert after designing your website to ensure that you understand how much bandwidth you need.
• Support – If you aren't a technical expert, then you need support. If you choose web hosting through your web developer or designer, they will likely offer this support. Otherwise, you should very carefully go over the fine print of how much support you get.
• Website Security – Servers and websites, like computers, can be hacked, and you need a web host that offers security. Firewalls, private networking, SSH keys and other security methods all enhance the security of your website.
• Backups – Server backups ensure that your website is safe, even in the case of total server failure. This is important to protect your hard work, and to ensure that your website goes back online quickly in case of an accident or issue. Backups can protect your website in more ways than one, and are crucial for protecting your website investment.
• Size – You need a web hosting company that can support your needs which means that it has to scale to the size you need. In some cases, especially for larger companies such as wholesale manufactures or insurance companies, you should consider a dedicated server, which can scale up to meet your needs.
What Are Your Web Hosting Options?
Choosing a web hosting company can be complicated because there are so many different options. For example, you'll probably see offerings including shared hosting, VPS or Virtual Private Server, Dedicated Hosting and Cloud Hosting.
Shared Hosting – Shared hosting is lower cost, but typically offers less speed and storage than other types of hosting. Shared means that you are sharing the server with others, meaning that your access, bandwidth, and expansion capabilities will be slower. However, shared hosting can be an excellent option for starting out or if your website does not need lighting fast hosting.
Virtual Private Server – A Virtual private server is a more advanced version of shared hosting. Instead of sharing your server, the computer hosts virtual mini-servers, and you get to use the entire space to yourself. It's a bit like using a computer partition or hard drive solely for one thing, while other hard drives on the computer do other things.
Dedicated Hosting – Dedicated hosting offers you the most in terms of speed, security, reliability, and customization. It is also the most expensive option, but is a good investment if your website is mission critical to your business. Here, the server's sole purpose is to host and serve your website.
Cloud Hosting – Cloud hosting allows you to host your website in the cloud. This means little to no downtime, but can put your site at more risk to hackers. Cloud hosting creates virtual servers for your website, which may or may not be private.
Which should you choose? For most businesses, a dedicated server is the best choice. If you're concerned about costs, you can look into other options, but you should discuss your needs, potential traffic, and other details with your web designer to get the information you need to make a decision.
If you're ready to move on to the next step, contact Architects for the Web for a free consultation. We offer web design, development and our own servers, which run on Windows Server 2012. Our content management systems has been optimized to work with our dedicated servers, offering a secure, fast, and private website hosting environment. Please contact us if you have additional questions.